Or is it the People’s Front of Judea’s Microbiome Initiative? All kidding aside, we learn, by way of Ed Yong, about two proposed initiatives to support microbiome research: the Unified Microbiome Initiative (UMI) and the International Microbiome Initiative (IMI). I have no problem with spending more money on microbiome research: if nothing else, it keeps wayward microbiologists and bioinformaticians off the streets and out of trouble.
But from what I’ve read, these initiatives are too broad to gain a lot of political and public support. There are some very good things, such as the call for standardization, since right now, wet lab and dry lab methods are, well, variable–essentially, we can’t really compare the results from one study to another study. Tool and technology development would also be useful; a large project that could really get a handle on metagenomic data (not 16S sequence data) would be very useful. But in terms of what biology should be done (which is kinda the ultimate goal…), I think these are overly broad. I don’t think it’s going to be easy to drum up support for an initiative that ranges from the soil rhizosphere to human skin communities. Finding support for a soil rhizobium project or a human disease project is feasible, but ultimately the biology has to sell itself. In this funding climate, unless there is additional money dedicated to these initiatives, ‘cross-organizational’ projects aren’t going to get much in the way of support.